Our IMPACT Track brings together co-op industry and thought leaders, policymakers and other partners to explore how co-ops can build a more inclusive economy. 

In 2017, our IMPACT Track helped practitioners navigate the dizzying map of co-op financing options, understand how organizations make funding decisions and learn how funders and the development community can work together to impact their members and communities. The IMPACT Track also explored worker co-op conversions and addressed how co-op measurement and evaluation can help meet reporting requirements for funders and regulators and tell the compelling story of how co-ops build a better world. 

With a focus on participation, growth and connection, our 2018 IMPACT Track sessions, below, are open to attendees from any track. 

This track is included in base registration.


Engaging with the co-op community on sustainability: Lessons and observations from farmer cooperatives

Presented by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Farmer cooperatives are naturally inclined to engage in the shared economic participation and community that provides a strong foundation for conducting effective sustainability programs. Since 2015, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) has carried out a collaborative program to support and enhance its members' sustainability efforts. In doing so, NCFC has learned valuable lessons about working to support the wide range of cooperative business in the constantly changing, complex environment of supply chain partners, consumers and policymakers. 

This panel discussion will provide an opportunity to hear directly from farmer cooperative sustainability staff about their practical experiences in developing programs, engaging with their members and communities, and communicating with the rest of the supply chain. IMPACT participants will learn about real-world challenges facing sustainability efforts and the unique value cooperatives bring to and realize from supply chain sustainability. 


Workers to Owners: Converting to an inclusive shared ownership economy

Presented by the Democracy at Work Institute

Business conversions to cooperative ownership present a clear opportunity not only to retain businesses and jobs in rural and low-income communities, but also articulate the true value of cooperative ownership and connect to unlikely partners. The Worker to Owners (W2O) Collaborative convened by the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI) is an innovative industry-uniting strategy designed to accomplish together what none of us can do alone: catalyze a wave of conversions to cooperative ownership at a moment of generational opportunity. The collaborative focuses on strategies that expand the worker cooperative model to benefit communities historically locked out of ownership prosperity—low-wage workers, rural workers and communities of color—and has drawn attention from local policymakers and economic developers, national funders and capital providers, civil rights and rural development organizations.

During this session, IMPACT participants will engage in a strategic conversation about how other co-op sectors can contribute to and benefit from the preservation of local businesses through worker ownership—form hardware stores that are purchasing coop members, to manufacturers that are key job creators, to main street businesses that are rural community anchors. Learn how cooperative conversions can be a viable, scalable strategy for sharing prosperity and building a more inclusive and equitable economy.


Cooperation among cooperatives: Building a cooperative economy

Presented by Organic Valley, Equal Exchange, Shared Capital Cooperative and the Cooperative Fund of New England 

This session will focus on how capital can be a critical tool for cooperation among cooperatives in building a cooperative economy. Through the experience of two cooperatives, Organic Valley and Equal Exchange, that have experienced tremendous growth in recent decades, and two providers of capital, Shared Capital Cooperative and the Cooperative Fund of New England, we will have a focused conversation about capital.

This session will explore what a truly sustainable cooperative economy could look like and discuss the role of cooperative capital in building and sustaining such an economy. IMPACT participants will learn how cooperatives can meet their own financial needs while also supporting each other. They’ll learn about critical factors to consider when choosing where to borrow or invest. Are there benefits beyond interest rates, such as democratic control, autonomy and cooperation among co-ops? Finally, this session will consider the benefits of a cooperative sector that develops and supports its own capital resources first before turning to outside markets.


Making connections: Electric co-ops are answering their members’ call for broadband, providing an economic boost and 21st century services to their communities

Presented by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

Thirty-four million Americans still lack access to high-speed internet, according to the FCC. Most of them call rural America home and live in electric co-op service territories. Now, nearly 100 electric co-ops are reinvesting in rural America by bringing broadband access to rural homes, businesses and schools. This connectivity serves two key purposes: bridging the digital divide for co-op members and enhancing the co-op business operation network, allowing the co-op and its members to adopt emerging energy management technology. These newly connected co-op communities are a proven strategy to create jobs, attract new employers and jumpstart local economies. The convergence of new technology and partnerships has made rural broadband deployment more achievable than ever. As electric co-ops work to bring broadband to rural America, some have formed innovative partnerships with local telecom companies and others. Yet despite these advances, the high cost of rural broadband deployment remains the biggest obstacle to successfully closing the digital divide. At the same time, there are fewer customers to defray the costs.

During this session, IMPACT participants will understand the broad economic and quality of life impacts for rural communities from broadband partnerships with cooperatives. The session will also explore opportunities for federal and state funding that may be available for such partnerships. Case studies will provide participants with lessons learned and best practices for working with co-op members, potential partners, policymakers and other stakeholders.


Breaking down walls and building participation

Presented by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association

For more than 170 years, food co-ops have worked to achieve the ideals of democracy, empowerment and inclusion—ideals we continue to strive toward today. How can co-ops continue to work to ensure our doors are open to all people, "without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination," in keeping with the 7 Cooperative Principles? This starts by identifying who we’re excluding and then taking action to be more welcoming, recognizing that we are better—and more successful and relevant—when we are more inclusive, when we lift one another up, and when we work together to remove barriers to participation.  Join us to explore how the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NCFA) is working with its 35 member food co-ops, startups and partners across New England to address this question through our Food Co-ops & Healthy Food Access work.

During this interactive workshop, IMPACT participants will learn how NCFA’s structure as a federation of food co-ops is supporting innovation and learning among member food co-ops about sourcing, healthy food access, economic inclusion and peer collaboration. Participants will learn techniques and tools to evaluate and improve programs to engage and better serve low-income and marginalized community members and expand co-op membership and participation. You’ll leave with the tools necessary to help differentiate your co-ops in the marketplace and use community feedback to improve your co-op’s image and relevance—particularly among people who don’t see themselves reflected at your store.


Power Play: Using inclusive financing to bring energy efficiency and renewable energy to rural electric cooperative members

Presented by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute

The session will feature rural electric co-op leaders talking about why and how they are using innovative programs like on-bill financing to bring energy efficiency and renewable energy to their members at all socio-economic levels. By giving electric co-op members and other utility customers the ability to finance energy efficiency improvements made to their homes and businesses over time, on-bill financing is an affordable way to integrate technology that ultimately reduces energy costs, improves reliability and increases efficiency.

During this session, IMPACT participants will understand the on-bill model for energy upgrades and learn about funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture available for such programs, as well as new technical assistance resources offered by EESI’s partnership with NCBA CLUSA. This session will also discuss how these programs can advance durable economic development in rural America.

From a lot of different directions there are people here who are converging on a lot of the same challenges, and I think the key to all of those is helping to support the kind of risk taking and innovation that a lot of the people I’ve been working with are itching to do.
— Nathan Schneider, University of Colorado
In these divided times, it’s really important to think about how everybody who is participating in the economy can benefit from the economy, and co-ops really are a great model to show the way.
— Maureen Conway, Executive Director of the Economic Opportunities Program, Aspen Institute
It’s been really a delight to connect with other professionals, academics and other scholars around the country who share an interest in the study of cooperatives as a business form.
— Brent Hueth, University of Wisconsin